Thursday, August 3, 2017
SIGNS OF PANCREATIC CANCER
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth deadliest cancer in the world. Since this cancer is hard to detect and treat, the survival rate is extremely low, hovering somewhere between 7-25%.
Looking for clues to pancreatic cancer is vital for early detection and treatment. Though some of the signs and symptoms of this cancer resemble other health conditions such as cirrhosis, diabetes, or liver disease, it’s important to visit your doctor if you notice any abnormalities.
Below are 8 warning signs of pancreatic cancer:
1. Sudden Onset of Diabetes
Research has shown that 40% of pancreatic cancer patients had been diagnosed
with diabetes one or two years before discovering that they had a pancreatic tumor. Researchers believe that the diabetes is caused by tumors that simply haven’t
been detected yet. The problem though, is that diabetes is very common, and
the majority of diabetes cases will not be related to pancreatic cancer, and so
doctors are trying to come up with screening tools to tell the difference. Right now,
they say that family history is an important clue. If you’re diagnosed with diabetes
that has come out of the blue, and you have no history of diabetes in your family,
bring this to your doctor’s attention and ask for further screening for pancreatic
2. Itchy Hands and Feet
Even a small pancreatic tumor can block the bile duct, and if this occurs, bile starts
to build up in the body. When there is too much bile in the blood, it starts to turn
into compounds that cannot be broken down by the body. These compounds
accumulate in the hands and feet, causing persistent itching sensations.
3. Yellowing Eyes and Skin
The buildup of bile mentioned above is known as jaundice, and it causes other
symptoms beyond itchy palms and feet. One such symptom is yellow eyes and
skin. Bile has a bright yellow pigment, and when too much of it is present in the
body, it will start to show up in the whites of the eyes and through the skin.
4. Lack of Appetite and/or Changes in Taste
An Italian study found that 6-8 months before being diagnosed with pancreatic
cancer, patients reported a sudden decrease in their appetite, and a tendency
to feel full after eating very little. This is because the lack of digestive enzymes
can shut down your whole system and confuse your stomach.
The same study also found that patients suffering from a pancreatic tumor also
suddenly lost their taste for coffee, alcohol, and smoking. In fact, some even
declared that they felt disgusted by the smell and taste of coffee and alcohol.
5. Pale, Floating, Smelly Stools
If a pancreatic tumor prevents digestive enzymes from reaching the intestines,
the result is an inability to digest fatty foods. Therefore, as a result of this excess
fat, you end up with loose, smelly floating stools. Doctors say that this symptom,
in particular, is an early clue of pancreatic cancer, but it is too often overlooked.
6. An Enlarged Gallbladder
The same blockage of the bile duct that causes jaundice can also cause the
gallbladder to enlarge, as the bile builds up behind the duct. The good news
though is that an enlarged gallbladder can be seen on imaging tests, and it is
sometimes possible for a doctor to feel it during a physical exam.
7. Abdominal Pain
Those suffering from pancreatic cancer typically experience some form of
abdominal pain. This is more of a gnawing pain, rather than a sharp cramp or
ache, and it usually radiates towards the back. A characteristic clue of abdominal
pain possibly being caused by a pancreatic tumor is the pain disappearing when
you lean forward, or getting worse after you eat or lie down.
8. Unexplained Weight Loss
This symptom is common to most cancers, especially in more advanced stages.
However, if a pancreatic tumor is developing, it may prevent your body from
digesting food thoroughly. This means that fat and sugar might pass right
through your system undigested.
What to Do If You’re Worried About Any of These Symptoms
Document all your symptoms and report them to your doctor in as much detail
as possible. If your doctor believes that you have legitimate concerns, tests such
as an ultrasound, CT scan, and an endoscopy followed by a biopsy can be used
to search for a pancreatic tumor. A blood test is also available that looks for a
biomarker called CA 19-9 that’s released by pancreatic cancer cells. Unfortunately,
though, by the time CA 19-9 reaches a detectable level, the cancer is no longer
in its early stages.
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